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Multinational firms eye Pakistan for genetically-modified products

Published Jul 28, 2013 03:52pm


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A food expert said genetic modification manufacturing was a biotechnology mainly used to make new products, particularly new types of crop plants. — Photo by Reuters
A food expert said genetic modification manufacturing was a biotechnology mainly used to make new products, particularly new types of crop plants. — Photo by Reuters

ISLAMABAD: Three multinational companies along with a number of national firms have approached the Ministry of Food Security seeking licences to raise genetically-modified (GM) food products in Pakistan.

A senior federal government official, refusing to share his name, told Dawn that “a request in this regard has been received by the Ministry of Food Security a few weeks back and it is being reviewed.”

He added that the ministry had received the request to launch the GM products – maize and cotton. He identified the firms as Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta.

A food expert said genetic modification manufacturing was a biotechnology mainly used to make new products, particularly new types of crop plants.

According to the federal government official, Monsanto is a US-based biotech company and is famous for BT cotton. He said the BT cotton product of Monsanto was resistant against certain pests.

The official explained that Monsanto was currently providing different variety of seeds (non-genetically modified) and herbicides to farmers in Pakistan.

“I am not aware of the products of Pioneer; however, Syngenta is the largest agri-business company of the world,” added the official.

The spokesman for the ministry could not be contacted for confirmation of the requests.

However, when approached, the director general of the Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (Pak-Epa), Asif Shuja, told Dawn: “The three companies have also approached us. But we are only concerned with the assessment of environmental impacts of these companies.”

When asked to comment on the genetically-modified food products, he said: “It’s a long debate as research is still continuing internationally whether the genetically-modified products have an impact on human health.”

A number of Pakistani companies have also approached Pak-Epa for launching genetically-modified food products but ‘we have not given a no-objection certificate (NOC) to any of them,” he added.

“Many of the local companies want to import genetically-modified food products from China and we have not given any approval in this regard,” added the Pak-Epa chief.

Mr Shuja said the Ministry of Climate Change had also established a committee to review the requests of these companies and it was yet to take a final decision regarding the establishment of their plants in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Dr Jawad Chishtie, a public health and environment management specialist, said: “Genetically-modified products have been rejected in Europe, and most recently in France, for damaging crops and endangering human health.”

He warned that effects of the genetically-engineered organisms were not yet known to researchers and “they are suspected of causing dangerous allergies and even cancer.”

Dr Chishtie cited the example of India where hundreds of farmers committed suicide after introduction of the genetically-modified crops since it damaged their land. Besides, the input price of raising the crop was getting higher.

He said seeds had terminator genes which did not allow the same crop to be planted again from the harvested seeds. “Once a genetically-modified agri-product is planted, the farmers are trapped into buying the seed and its related pesticides each and every year from the same company,” he told Dawn.

“Even there are legal issues like companies do not allow replanting of the seed,” he maintained.

Dr Chishtie asked the government to promote organic farming in Pakistan for which the country had far better environment.

Umar Munawar, an agri-business expert, maintained: "Such a move will increase the cost of food which will become more regulated like we have seen across the world in relation to the bottled water."

He added; "We have to buy water of different brands so if such a move is approved by the government food will also be regulated by multinational companies.”


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Comments (30) Closed

Analyst Jul 28, 2013 11:55am

GMO products are a big risk. Their health effects in the long term are unknown at best, and fraught with great risk. In addition, GMO companies (especially Monsanto), are well known for creating huge legal issues regarding the re-use of their seeds/plants, once you buy from them.

Getting carried away with 'new technology' can be highly detrimental. As far as I know, Shahbaz Sharif (in his recent term) was strongly opposed to introducing GMO products in Punjab,and refused Monsanto's requests.

This issue calls for honest, transparent and detailed deliberations, and strict limitations on the MNCs, so they don't exploit farmers.

delhiwalal Jul 28, 2013 03:35pm

be careful a dangerous proposition, without proper assesment. it will destroy your local desi varieties.

Sohrab Jul 28, 2013 03:52pm

Slippery slope. When the developed world is turning back to organic farming, the multinationals are eyeing to take their business where they can use their financial clout. Farming as opposed to incustrialization of agriculture has its own benefits of bringing better returns at the cost of health issues and environmental damage. Big money for some at the expense of the health of a nation at large over the long run.

Arif Jul 28, 2013 04:16pm

It's a bad idea from the start. It's a way to become slave to the GMO producing companies. Pakistan should learn from the experience of other countries and steer clear of this trap.

Jamil Awan Jul 28, 2013 04:48pm

It's sad that Pakistan is approaching GM seeds while in was a fiasco in Europe and nobody is interested anymore in this contest. these companies, so called multinational even don't know the abc of gens they ignorantly bombard the nucleus of seeds and obtain the horrendous results. Its a sad truth how many indian farmers committed the suicides, having the same culture the pakistani farmers will do the same, if government will go a head with this horrible initiative. May God save Pakistani people!

Faiz Jul 28, 2013 05:17pm

NO to Monsanto and GM food!!!

IBN-E-ASHFAQUE Jul 28, 2013 06:06pm

This is an opportunity to make money for a few at the expense of Pakistanis. GM is bad for Pakistan. I hope that Pakistanis will be spared this affliction for a few pieces of gold. May Allah help us.

Billa Jul 28, 2013 07:13pm

Europe has outright rejected Gm foods and the results of the mice experiments done in France with gm foods; particularly by mosanto were horrendous, with tumorous growths throughout their system. No gm foods foods in pakistan!

taimur king Jul 28, 2013 07:41pm

Pakistan should say no to these GMO even though our officials are corrupt and can be bought.

Tariq Jul 28, 2013 07:50pm

GM foods would not be a good move for Pakistan or the Pakistani farmers. The untold damage GM foods will cause will only become clear after it's been in circulation for some time! Also the supply companies will have a monopoly in supplying the seeds and fertiliser products to farmers! We should strive to grow ONLY organic produce in Pakistan and this would the best course of action!

Caz Jul 28, 2013 08:12pm

pakistan is now better known as nawaz sharif and sons Incorporated. So exploitation for (private) profit will have top priority.

Jabbar Khan Jul 28, 2013 09:21pm

The governments must regulate, strengthen and promote the existing way of production, i.e. more natural and better in quality. Such incentives from the Multinational firms actually please the government officers and encourage big investments, but actually for big groups and investors. After such initiatives everything related to product, i.e. money, land, etc goes to the big farmers and investors. This ultimately destroys the poor farmers. The genuine experts are now encouraging more natural products, which is a pro-poor strategy. Genuine way is genuine indeed.

eelyas Jul 28, 2013 09:30pm

Dear Friends, GM food is not Genaticly modifid Product which totaly unsuficent for Human Healt indeed the turth is it only suficcent for Few Peoples Wealth , the Gm product contains minrals and toxic which is Harmful for our Daigustive system and Birth cells. Please condam Mosanto the west is also suffring from i.


Mika Jul 28, 2013 10:11pm

Pakistan must choose this step with extreme care. EU and many other nations (some from ME) do not allow GM imports or GM contamination to imports. Yes, GM does amazing production (rice as high 9,000 lbs per acre, corn 9600 lbs per acre) (Pakistan's average: rice 1500 lb, corn 1000 lb per acre), it can really feed hungry Pakistani but infrastructure must be there to make sure there is no contamination of GM to export products going to EU and ME (Pakistan's biggest markets). It is better to select an isolated area (KP province) or Baluchistan that is isolated from your food basket of Punjab. This way you can help struggling farmers from poor areas and keep your GM separate. Keep in mind that companies who provide GM seeds are very tough on license fee and they can take Pakistani government to international court if there is mismanagement of their seed. It is not easy road. In Canada and US Monsanto successfully sued many farmers who accidentally got GM seed via bee pollen or wind in their crop. There are also several controversies about the health safety of GM food. In long run it can create several problems for the health of locals.

Amjad Jul 28, 2013 10:25pm

GM food is not safe and should not be grown in Pakistan. Farmers should not be buying seeds from companies such as Monsanto. These greedy multinationals need to be kicked out of Pakistan. They are trying to take control of food production

WAQAR Jul 28, 2013 10:38pm

Once you do genetically modified crop you cannot go back. once the peace of land grow that it will never grow the normal crop again, at the begining these companies will provide you free seeds for genetically modified crops, then once the land is usetoo of it they will put a hefty cost on those seeds making your land depandent on them and will make huge profits out of it leaving the poor farmers out of business.

WAQAR Jul 28, 2013 10:39pm

Once you do genetically modified crop you cannot go back. once the peace of land grow that it will never grow the normal crop again, at the begining these companies will provide you free seeds for genetically modified crops, then once the land is usetoo of it they will put a hefty cost on those seeds making your land depandent on them and will make huge profits out of it leaving the poor farmers out of business.

Hassaan Ahmed Jul 28, 2013 11:05pm

Genetically Modified Crops are banned in the UK for their environmental hazards, products of the companies like Monsanto are like a leech and leave the land barren for years. Pakistan cannot afford to bring such agri-business to the country, it will be disaster in the long-run.

Z I RASHID Jul 28, 2013 11:52pm

The introduction of GM foods into Pakistan will be a catastrophe. Apart from the environmental degradation that is bound to follow, the ultimate aim of these global multinationals is to control the food production of the whole world. this would be an unmitigated disaster particularly for a poor country like Pakistan. keep them out at all costs.

Mustafa Jul 29, 2013 01:33am

In Pakistan, I used to eat three times a day (breakfast, lunch and dinner) but never had obesity. Here in USA, we eat non-organic food, I am gaining weight all the time where I eat only twice a day. Pakistan, please don't play into 'their' hands and grow non-organic food only.

zuhaib Jul 29, 2013 01:38am

No way. We do not want our farmers to commit suicide.

Nagy Jul 29, 2013 02:38am

When organic is becoming a norm once again we start entertaining obsolete methodology of the west, which will only further damage the agricultural industry of PK. This only helps the West cash out on dying practices.

Fazal Karim Jul 29, 2013 03:11am

Pakistan should avoid genetically modified food through imports and cultivation as much as possible(till its safety is confirmed scietifically). We should learn to utilise our water resources most economically. Millions of acre foot of waste water from house hold in cities, towns and villages can be easily treated for use in agriculure though land use planning. Secondly we must control population growth to match our resources. Vigorous family planning compaign should be launched.

Umer Jul 29, 2013 03:52am

Never!!!! Pakistani crops are the best in the world in terms of quality. This deal will destroy our original desi taste

Fahad Jul 29, 2013 04:09am

Genetically produced Fruits, vegetables have no taste. They same to be artificial. One can clearly distinguish between the tastes of fruits grown in Pakistan and Europe. Stop these Mutinational firms to destroy Pakistani products.

John Young Jul 29, 2013 04:59am

Big NO to GMO - it will held hostage your land. Once you use it there is no turning point, you cannot use that land for regular seeds. You will totally rely on the GMO supplier, they will you the seed so you grow your crop, they not give you the seed you cannot grow the crop on that land any more.

Bilal Jul 29, 2013 05:17am

Pakistani government should not allow this under any circumstance. GMO crops are being banned all over the world because of health and environment reasons. The termination seeds will bankrupt the farmers and will only benefit the corporations. The crop quality is now proven to be far less superior anyway. We cannot hand over the future of or country's food and main economy line to foreign entities. Please oppose this at any cost!

sajjad khan Jul 29, 2013 08:39am

Yes! welcome to western poison,whereas, they are promoting organic at home.

kashif Jul 29, 2013 09:50am

GM will come to Pakistan; because for surly there are someones and somebodies involved from the current govt. or perhaps from Nawaz know quick and big money at the cost of anything relating to Pakistan....

FAIRY Jul 30, 2013 03:07pm

Say no to GM FOODS....our country should not allow such poison....we are already facing many health their is no room for these foods in our foods are against human ethics...